Meniere's Disease results from an abnormal buildup of if fluid within the inner ear which presents a classic symptom complex of ear fullness, a drop in hearing, tinnitus and vertigo.
The symptoms may last minutes to days, resolve spontaneously, and recur at unpredictable and irregular intervals. Not all of the symptoms in the complex must be present to make the diagnosis.
Meniere's Disease is of unknown cause. It should be viewed as a common set of symptoms reflective of several possible underlying pathologies: too much fluid produced, too little fluid absorbed, viral, genetic, toxic or metabolic. Unfortunately, we do not have the diagnostic tools to reliably identify and separate these possibilities.
Diseases that can mimick Meniere's Disease include an acoustic neuroma, perilymphatic fistula, Lyme' Disease, syphilis, autoimmune inner ear disease and multiple sclerosis. Meniere's Disease affects both ears in about 25% of patients. Over time, the hearing loss ceases to fluctuate as the degree becomes more severe, and the acute attacks of vertigo "burn out" and give way to a constant sense of imbalance.
Initial treatment is with a low salt diet, an oral diuretic (water pill) andsymptomatic treatment for dizziness. If medical therapy is not adequate, the organ of balance can be destroyed by injecting a toxic substance, gentamycin, into the ear. Surgical alternatives are available.